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Unaffordable Dental Care Is Linked to Frequent School Absences

November 1, 2009

Policy Brief

Authors: Nadereh Pourat, PhD, Gina Nicholson

This policy brief examines the number of children in California who miss school due to lack of affordable dental care.

Specifically, the authors found that of the 7,240,000 school age children ages 5-17 in California, an estimated 504,000 missed at least one day of school due to a dental problem in the past year. The majority of these children report one missed day of school due to a dental problem, while the remaining 40 percent report missing two or more days. In total, California children report missing an estimated 874,000 school days due to dental problems.

The ability to afford needed dental care is the key difference between those children who miss school due to a dental problem and those who do not. The authors note that frequent absences may have significant negative societal and economic consequences and suggest that policymakers consider addressing gaps in coverage and access, as well as school-based dental care, among other recommendations.

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